With Soha Ali Khan for company, Calcutta boy Aki Narula is telling style-challenged women participants how to trade drab for fab in What Not To Wear India (beams every night at 10pm on TLC). A t2 chat with the designer...
How was the experience of doing the TLC show What Not to Wear India?
It was very interesting. The world is made up of real people and it’s real people who define commerce, who shop. It was all about telling real people what to wear and what not to wear to make India a more stylish country.
What kind of dressing habits did you have to fight against?
There is a myth that the looser the clothing, the thinner you look. I had to urge them not to wear circus tents.
What kind of tips did you pass on to the participants?
Simple things like how the length of a kurta can make so much of a difference. The wrong length can make a short woman look shorter or a tall woman more vertical. When they went shopping with the money given for a new wardrobe, I would tell the ‘big’ women to go for smaller prints as bigger prints would make them look even bigger.
You styled a vodka bottle...
Yes. Last year, Belvedere asked me to style its special edition vodka bottle. I designed a range of 300 scarves, all hand-drawn by me that I happily styled around the bottles. I want to do watches next. I did a collection once for Puma.
When will you show at fashion week next?
I know it’s been a while. What happens is a call comes, ‘Aki, do this film’, and I think, ‘Okay, I can do fashion week later’. I have styled 17 shows this year at Lakme Fashion Week. But I have promised myself I’ll show next year.
Any filmmaker you want to work with?
I have worked with pretty much everyone, from Farhan Akhtar (Don) to Imtiaz Ali (Rockstar) to Shaad Ali (Jhoom Barabar Jhoom). I would love to work in some off-beat projects, and with Anurag Kashyap, Vishal Bharadwaj… and Rituparno Ghosh. Please tell him. I was supposed to do Bariwali. That was when Rakhi was supposed to do the title role. Then the film was shelved and I moved to Delhi. The film got made much later with Kirron Kher.
You fell out with Vidya Balan after Kismat Konnection and vowed never to work with her. Now that she has back-to-back hits, have you two made up?
You know, 10-15 days after the incident, we met at Yash Raj Films for an ad and had a laugh about it. Sometimes you try western clothes or something in between and sometimes things don’t go right. The whole incident was blown out of proportion. Since then, I have done six ad campaigns with her — Good Knight to Dabur Amla Shanti. After the release of Ishqiya, we chatted for hours and also after Kahaani. Both of us have a lot of respect for each other. I’d love to work with her again.
If one has 10 minutes to get dressed for a party, what would be your advice?
Wear a sari. I find it very versatile and sexy. I would go for a beautiful printed handloom or a printed chiffon sari from Ananda or Dakshinapan. Have fun with the blouse — a printed or brocade blouse. Put on some kajal and some silver oxidised jewellery and you are ready to rock. Otherwise, you can play safe with a pair of jeans and a black top or black shirt. My philosophy is you should be comfortable in what you wear. It should complement your personality. You should feel confident and happy.
What should one not wear to a party?
You should not wear anything that screams attention. What should shine is your personality. Don’t wear something too blingy or too loud. You should not become a laughing stock. If you wear jewellery, do only a stunning neckpiece and keep it at that. You should not wear that and earrings and bracelet and necklace and blingy shoes and blingy bag.… You are not an advertisement for a store. It should be about yourself. Keep it cool, sophisticated and elegant.